Srebrenica: The Past Lives On

by Bill Clark

On Saturday July 11, Peace Catalyst staff and volunteers in Seattle came together with our Bosnian friends to join them in remembrance of the Srebrenica genocide their people experienced in Europe only twenty years ago. In 1995 Serbian soldiers killed more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica, and many of the Bosnians present in Seattle this weekend lost loved ones in the three-year conflict in Bosnia that resulted in more than 100,000 deaths, 2 million displaced people, and the rape of more than 20,000 girls and women. These are horrifying numbers and tragic that this occurred in Europe only 40 years after the Holocaust. From 1995-2007, over 130,000 refugees settled in the United States, 10,000 of them in Washington State.

For followers of Jesus (and American citizens), what is our responsibility towards these new neighbors? They have simply asked us to join them in the act of remembering the horrific events of the 1990s so that massacres like this never happen again. On three different occasions Peace Catalyst has worked with local churches and hosted a talented group of Bosnians from the local non-profit Voices of the Bosnian Genocide to share oral history accounts of the war and their refugee experience. Given the fact that ‘Christian’ Serbs were the perpetrators of violence against the Muslim Bosnians, it has been a powerful symbol of healing to hold these events in Christian churches.

In fact, the phrase, “never again” was repeated numerous times during the moving two-hour program on Saturday. We heard accounts of concentration camp survivors and families torn apart and, in some cases, reunited after the war. Throughout the event there was no self-pity, but a clear truth-telling of the horror this people has been through. There was a strong emphasis on not wasting the sorrow of this tragedy but rather looking forward to the future and, for all of us, being the kind of people who will not stand on the sidelines when the next genocide is on the horizon. So then, through their endurance of suffering and persistence in not forgetting the past, our Bosnian American neighbors teach us to be better than we are now: to be global citizens, ready to act when required by the standards of justice and peace.